Family tree bears fruit

Jeremy Arndt discusses his roots project with Liz James of the AJGS. Photo: Peter Haskin

FOR Jeremy Arndt, 14, delving into his family’s past and learning about his forebears has been an educational adventure.

The year 9 Mount Scopus College student has completed a roots project with assistance from the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society of Victoria (AJGS), his six months’ research uncovering information about a Melbourne shule pioneer, the foundations of an iconic liquor brand, and much more.

Using birth, death, marriage and naturalisation records, and sources including the National Archives and the Melbourne Chevra Kadisha, Jeremy was able to learn more about ancestors including Joseph Joffe (1888-1967), his maternal great-great-great-grandfather, who became first president of Brunswick Hebrew Congregation.

Jeremy also learned much about another maternal great-great-great-grandfather, Clifford Baitz (1888-1962) who ran a Fitzroy wine bar with celebrated vintner Samuel Wynn, and whose son Eddie Baitz, founded Baitz Liqueurs, a popular staple at simchas.

Like other students in his class, Jeremy has produced a detailed presentation book with important information and rare family photographs, and a comprehensive family tree chart, assisted by Liz James of the AJGS.

“It was interesting to find out where they came from and the process of how they really became Australians,” Jeremy told The AJN.

James, who also volunteers with the Australian Jewish Historical Society, said AJGS input into Jewish schools comprises a mix of presentations, assistance with individual students’ research, and helping them access the resources of the Jewish Museum of Australia.

Bernie Kuran of the AJGS said his organisation works with students at Mount Scopus, Bialik and Leibler Yavneh Colleges and at the King David School. 

“We don’t want to do the work for the students but we want to create an interest.”